Product Strategy

4 Key Takeaways from ProductTank TO’s Qualitative Insight MeetUp

Mitchell Gillespie of WaveHQ teaches the product community how to get the most out of qualitative data.

Katie Hill

March 13, 2019

Intelligence is defined as "the ability to acquire and apply knowledge." That’s what we strive to do at Connected. To acquire knowledge from the growing Toronto product management community, we recently hosted a ProductTank Toronto event in our office. We believe in the power of meaningful discussions, which is why we were excited to host Mitch Gillespie, Director of Product Management at Wave HQ, to give a talk on Qualitative Intelligence. Now, we’re excited to apply his teachings here at Connected.

With over 100 attendees including a few of our own Connectors, we asked Connected Senior Design Researcher Katie Hill to share a few takeaways from the event.

Mitchell Gillespie promised the ProductTank Toronto audience that we would leave with a better understanding of how to assess our organization's ability to acquire and apply qualitative insight. To deliver on this ambitious promise, Gillespie organized his talk into four critical dimensions, each with recommended approaches for fostering and utilizing people as “agents of change”, empowered with intelligent ways of leveraging qualitative data. Powering people up with an understanding of the importance of qualitative signals, Gillespie explained, has enabled WaveHQ to build better, more relevant products for both their business and their customers.

1. Identify how qualitative insight can help fill knowledge gaps

To ensure that representatives from across cross-functional organizations are invested in generating qualitative insights, Gillespie asked the audience to put on our Product Manager hats. It’s important to lead your team members from Design, Product, Engineering, or any other field to see the value in qualitative research and data. Take the time to learn what questions your team wants answered in order to do their jobs better. Then, do the work to figure out and frame how qualitative insight might help them to uncover those answers.

2. Leverage strategic frameworks to prioritize the right kinds of qualitative data

Apply a strategic lens to assess alignment between the user desires you uncover and the solutions your organization can provide. If you are not generating the qualitative insights you need to inspire improvements in the types of products your organization creates, it’s time to revisit the methods you use to collect the data as well as how you approach parsing the information captured. Gillespie advocated for implementing different metrics for success at key points across the customer/user experience lifecycle and then assessing where and what kind of qualitative insight might help your team understand how to meet those metrics.

3. Facilitate the ability to capture, analyze, and share qualitative insight across functions

Gillespie highlighted the importance of incentivizing cross-functional team members to participate in qualitative research activities. He suggested that facilitating internal research and/or synthesis sessions with practitioners from different groups can be a good way to show them the benefit of qualitative approaches. Again, it is incumbent upon those who are positioned to lead with influence to come up with appropriate ways to bring people into these often intimidating processes.

4. Utilize automation and collaboration tools to increase high-efficiency analysis

With the wide variety of automation and collaboration tools now available, qualitative data analysis is becoming faster and easier. Gillespie noted that leveraging software to assist with categorizing and analyzing qualitative information appeals to cross-functional team members who tend to prioritize time efficiency at the expense of generating high-quality outputs. By using the right tools to help make sense of the data, we can convince people that time efficiency and rigorous, collaborative data analysis don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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